In this week’s episode of Growth Interviews, we invite you to join our podcast conversation with Andrew Salzman, a global market development and growth strategist with over 20 years of experience and a proven international track record of leading change and developing markets for top companies, worldwide.

Andrew Salzman new opportunities

Here Are The Biggest Takeaways From The Interview

  • Points of view on the digital landscape – 01.25
  • Challenges technology changed – 02.52
  • Product market fit vs. channel market fit – 04.53
  • Principles of starting a digital business – 18.35
  • Lessons of success – 21.35
  • States of company development – 25.28
  • AI and Machine learning – 34.55

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Welcome to Growth Interviews!

Welcome to Growth Interviews, the fun, stimulating, and engaging series of conversations driven by digital business growth. Our mission is to provide valuable insights from the eCommerce arena. Each episode is a fascinating quest into the best-kept business secrets and money-making strategies of an insightful world-class expert.

Andrew Salzman is one of the most insightful experts. He provides companies seeking transitional or transformational growth with market and customer-based insights to ensure product-market fit and aligned cross-functional execution. 

He specializes in market development strategy, strategic planning frameworks, marketing and sales planning, messaging and brand architectures, product portfolio and direction, channel strategies, go-to-market planning, sales enablement, product marketing, and lead generation.

An expert with lots of experiences to share, Andrew Salzman has worked with innovative technologies including AI, Cloud, IoT, Big Data, Mobile, and Social Media. He has experience across industries like enterprise hardware, software, infrastructure, cybersecurity, healthcare, financial services, cleantech, storage and networking, social media, talent management, and consumer tech software/hardware. Now it’s time to sit for one of the greatest marketing lessons.

Product-Market Fit vs Channel-Market Fit

Diagram illustrating "Product to Channel Fit" with products such as toner, PCs, video editing systems, telecom networks, and insurance mapped across various channels like Web: Telesales, Retail, VARs, Direct Sales, and Systems Integrators, showing different levels of marketing and solution complexity.

Understanding and Establishing Product-Market Fit

Diagram depicting the startup journey from idea to growth, including stages: Idea (Problem/Solution Fit), Concept, Committing (Vision/Founders Fit), Validating (Product/Market Fit), Scaling, Establishing (Business Model/Market Fit), and Growth (Scale Up).

“Is there a real product-market fit?” is the first question that Andrew Salzman asks companies. The answer is the starting point of working together. The markets are always changing due to technological development, with totally new frontiers opening up. Entrepreneurs need to be aligned with solving a significant need or problem that potential customers have or might encounter. They must understand if the potential customers—the potential market—are recognizing the problem.

The second most important problem in setting clear expectations regarding the first step in the process of product-market fit is whether the potential customers are motivated to solve that problem. They must be willing to invest in a product or service that helps them solve that particular problem. 

Going further, the third question from Andrew Salzman is, “If you were to create a solution for that problem, would they buy it from you?” Establishing credibility as a provider in the market is one of the most important steps. It is an aspect that should be measured before everything else.

The capacity to be a trusted partner in a company is one of the most important assets an entrepreneur might have. “Can you build it?” is the fourth question. It refers to the capacity, resources, and knowledge an entrepreneur has to create and launch a new product, service, or even a new business.

Challenges and Strategies in Product Development

Diagram highlighting the challenges of product development: knowing your audience, keeping costs under control, being flexible, getting feedback early and often, and being prepared for launch.

The process seems simple but is often very complicated. Answering all the questions without raising serious issues can be challenging. The first three questions are asked before actually building something. In many cases, the process is the inverse. An entrepreneur might have an idea about an interesting new application or technology. 

They go directly to building it and often launch it, considering it to be a great product that will surely be loved and successful in the market. Unfortunately, emotional decisions based on personal preference towards a solution are the ones that fail the most.

As an expert, Andrew points out that need is what any entrepreneur should have in mind when building products, tools, or services. “The best products that I’ve seen introduced into the market started with an entrepreneur who had a problem in their own life and developed a solution to that problem. 

That problem for that entrepreneur was a common problem shared by a number of different people.” The first step for product-market fit was identifying what Andrew calls visionary early adopter buyers. These buyers tended to be more upscale and affluent and had the confidence to work with newer technologies.

Channel-Market Fit and Additional Variables

Pie chart showing Product/Market Fit variables: Price, Performance, Quality, Functionality, Ergonomics/Ease of Use, Manufacturability, and Marketability.

Channel fit comes much later when product-market fit questions have already been answered. Andrew mentioned that there is a nine-case criterion to complete a channel-fit process. “Those nine criteria are points of success. They can also be viewed as points of failure. If we look at those nine key priorities of criteria, only one is the product.” 

The first and most important criterion is the target market. It comes with a great question: “Is there a customer in pain who recognizes that pain and wants to solve it?” The second criterion also comes with an important question: “Is there a compelling reason to buy or a compelling reason to switch or to argue about how one approaches a problem?” The third criterion of channel fit is the product and identifying all the elements in addition to the core product that are needed to solve that problem.

During the channel-fit process, the first three criteria are the most important to solve and the only ones an entrepreneur has full control over. After that stage, there are six other variables that a company can’t control fully. 

These include partners and allies, sales strategy, pricing strategy, competitive environment, positioning, and the next target, meaning the adjacent segment to go after in the first stage. This set of six criteria helps entrepreneurs sharpen product-market fit among a range of potential options that may exist for a product. It ultimately paves the way for starting to get significant market traction.

Principles Of Starting A Digital Business

Infographic illustrating digital marketing components: PR, SEO, Social Media, Online Articles, E-mail & News, Mobile Apps, Pay Per Click.

Unchanging Economic Laws

Word cloud with prominent terms like information, economics, network, technology, policy, strategy, and structure.

Business is based on economic laws that will never change, regardless of whether the environment is online or offline. In the interview, Andrew considers that “certain principles don’t change. People are people, there are needs, there are problems to be solved.”

What has changed and is in a process of permanent development, like a living organism always evolving, are the techniques and methodologies that specialists use to solve those problems. The digital environment has lately become the most important and sought-after place of birth for most of these techniques and tools. This shift opens a range of opportunities for technologists.

The Changing Landscape of Marketing

Diagram illustrating the process of change with steps: adjust, shift, transform, new, modify, transition, featuring a person drawing on a whiteboard.

Using marketing as the best example, Andrew points out: “I do think what’s changed a lot are the techniques and the tactics that one uses. Let’s say in marketing. It is a radically different world today than it was five, ten, or fifteen years ago in terms of how one uses digital technologies, the fragmentation of media, globalization, and so on.”

There is a whole new range of connecting with buyers and establishing customer experiences, deep customer relationships, and loyalty. The tools have changed. The principles still remain the same. Customer experience has always been important. Customer loyalty has always been important.

Opportunities and Adaptation

Infographic showing interconnected circles labeled "Justice in Adaptation: Trends and Opportunities" and "Just Transition for Climate Adaptation," highlighting themes like climate risk awareness, policy changes, business opportunities, retraining, supply chain adaptation, and community resilience.

Opportunities created by digital tools are increasing at an exponential rate. They have the tremendous capacity to offer incredible information about and for the benefit of a business at a very small price compared with the previous generations of entrepreneurs.

However, to ensure the success of a digital business, it’s also important to keep and respect the unchangeable economic principles. Adapting our tactics and tools for connecting with clients is crucial, based on the way people currently interact with particularly digital media.

Lessons of Success

Case Study: Nest

During our interview, Andrew Salzman discussed two of the greatest projects he worked on, which he considers important and relevant for digital marketers who like to learn from peer practitioners.

The first case was Nest. The strategy he took significantly propelled the company into being able to penetrate mainstream buyers. Like any other producer of quality products, Nest management was sure that quality was enough to make customers want to buy the products through every channel. However, Andrew identified that the customers, although they loved the products, were reluctant to buy because of the nuisance of installing and testing them.

For many customers, it felt like an unnecessary effort, an effort bigger than the need for a security camera, for example. “People liked the comfort of having a white van with security personnel installing and hooking things up and then setting up a monitoring system that would connect a camera to the police station or to the fire station, to know that they had safely solved for an issue not only detected a potential problem but solved a problem.”

Having this insight, Andrew, together with the Nest team, focused on “the need to build what might be called a whole product solution. And in this case, it wasn’t simply providing home devices.” Andrew came up with a broader view of the elements required to provide mainstream buyers with security, comfort, and the elimination of risk associated with trusting home security devices to a company that provided just one element in a total solution. The next step only came naturally, and the company grew substantially.

Case Study: Blue Scape

Bluescape website banner with text "Faster Planning," describing Bluescape as an infinite virtual workspace for secure decision-making and accelerated response.

The second case is with Blue Scape, the offspring of a parent company that made physical workspaces like offices and cubicles. The company realized the world was moving fast to virtual workspaces where professionals in different locations could work together and collaborate with the help of technology with the same proficiency and ease as if they were in the same room.

The company identified twenty-five industries where their technical solution would be a good fit. In this context, Andrew advised the company that the entertainment industry would be one of the first to go after as the “Hollywood production environment would be perfect for their solution because it took full advantage of all the capabilities that they could offer and the nature of the work done in production studios aligned well with their virtual office space.”

The idea was a complete success that helped the company gain a lot of capital, both financially and in terms of image and client trust. At this point, Andrew advised a second direction, which is “to be going after oil and gas which they’re looking at now because if you have these virtual collaboration people in the field looking where to drill for oil and people crunching a lot of data in different environments, being able to aggregate these people and understand with greater precision where to drill can have millions if not billions of dollars in potential value in getting it right or getting it wrong.”

Conclusion

For the 2020 generation of entrepreneurs there is a whole range of new opportunities and applications out there, so despite the fierce competition, putting in extra effort should be an easy motivation. The history offers an unprecedented context: there’s easier access to capital than ever before, there is a whole range of already existing technologies like cloud computing, storage capacity, computing power, and bandwidth and there is a whole range of tools that anyone can build upon opening streams of growth. 

As Andrew Salzman sees it, “It’s a wonderful time to be an entrepreneur simply because access to capital and access to our core infrastructure or technologies to build things has never been cheaper easier than it is right now.”

We hope you enjoyed our podcast interview with Andrew Salzman!
For more valuable insights, make sure you come back to check out our next Growth Interviews as well.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some common mistakes entrepreneurs make when trying to achieve product-market fit?

Entrepreneurs often rush to build and launch products based on personal preferences rather than validated market needs. Another common mistake is failing to establish credibility and trust with potential customers before launching the product. Additionally, neglecting thorough market research and feedback from early adopters can lead to misalignment with customer needs, resulting in poor product-market fit.

How can businesses effectively measure their product-market fit?

Businesses can measure product-market fit through various methods, including customer surveys, Net Promoter Score (NPS), and analyzing customer retention rates. Monitoring feedback from early adopters and tracking key performance indicators (KPIs) such as customer acquisition cost (CAC) and customer lifetime value (CLV) can provide insights into whether the product meets market demands. Regularly iterating based on customer feedback is crucial for maintaining and improving product-market fit.

What role does customer feedback play in refining both product-market fit and channel-market fit?

Customer feedback is essential for refining both product-market fit and channel-market fit. For product-market fit, it helps identify whether the product addresses real customer needs and highlights areas for improvement.

For channel-market fit, feedback can reveal the effectiveness of different sales channels and marketing strategies, helping businesses adjust their approach to better reach and serve their target audience. Continuous engagement with customers ensures that the product and its delivery methods evolve in line with market expectations.